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Brentwood Hospital

Shenfield Road, Brentwood, CM15 8EH

01277 695695
Switchboard 01277 695695
Enquiries 01277 695695
Radiology 01277 695 655

What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to look at the inside of your sigmoid colon and rectum using a flexible telescope.

During this procedure, your surgeon can diagnose reasons for changes in your bowel habits, pain, bleeding from your anus or weight loss. They can also look for early signs of cancer.

Sometimes a polyp (small growth) is the cause of the problem and your consultant may be able to remove it during the procedure. Your consultant will advise you on how to prepare for your flexible sigmoidoscopy.

What happens during flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy usually takes between fifteen and twenty minutes. You may be given a sedative to help you relax before and during your sigmoidoscopy.

  • You will be given an enema to clear the lower bowel an hour or so before the procedure
  • Patients usually lie on their side on the examination table
  • The endoscopist will place a flexible telescope (endoscope) into your anus
  • Air will be blown into your large bowel so that they have a clear view
  • The endoscopist will be able to look for problems such as inflammation or polyps. They will be able to perform biopsies (take samples) and take photographs to help make the diagnosis.

After your flexible sigmoidoscopy

  • If you were given a sedative, you will normally recover in about an hour
  • You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass
  • You may experience slight bleeding just after this procedure
  • Your consultant will tell you what was found during the flexible sigmoidoscopy and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up that you need
  • You should be able to go back to work the day after the flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Complications and risks

Although rare, every surgical procedure carries a small degree of risk. Specific complications from a flexible sigmoidoscopy can include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities
  • Puncture of the colon
  • Bleeding
  • Incomplete procedure.

Your consultant will discuss these risks with you during your consultation.